Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Much Magic Is There?

I am often at odds with myself as to how much magic there should be in the World of Fletnern. One of the things we did intentionally with Legend Quest was to make enchanting a weapon a secondary thing - When you want a magic sword, first you get a sword, then you get it enchanted. You don’t just go to a magic shop and buy a magic sword. What if the grip isn’t right? What if you wanted a certain kind of cross guard or pommel?

This makes enchanting a service you can buy in most major cities. It’s not cheap, but it is absolutely available. I know that goes against some GMs’ worlds, but to each his own, right? But how much magic do I allow in my world? Probably far more than most people would expect.

One of the consequences of making enchanting a service, is that it has a generally accepted price. Journeymen enchanters make about 300sc a day. That’s 30x what a carpenter makes, but still within the reach of some successful adventurers. But with an established cost, you can start doing some cost-benefit analysis. If you have to pay an enchanter four days (or ~1200sc) to enchant the sail on a ship in order to shave 10% off the travel time, then when is it worth it? Well, ironically (according to Grain Into Gold), the salary of a ship’s captain and crew is about 300sc per day. So if the sail will shave 10% of the travel, and therefore 10% of the payroll off the ship, then the sail only has to last 40 days in order to break even. If you could shave 10% of the payroll off a ship for six months with one magical sail, you would save yourself 4,200sc. (300sc per day x 10% x 180 days = 5400 - 1200 for the sail = 4200). Now, I’m not suggesting that a +10% speed sail only costs 1200sc (I don’t know, but I am writing myself a note to figure it out), but if it did ...

Which leads to the big question: So what? Any time an enchantment can last long enough to save a significant amount of time and therefore cost, then the people will be using magic to enhance their business. Solar glass is an alchemical that when used in greenhouses allows them to soak up sunlight, even on cloudy or rainy days. That means you can now grow tropical plants anywhere you want to. Is that worth a couple of thousand silver coins assuming it lasts 5-10 years? Yep!

OK - How do I justify magical weapons and armor? I actually ran through the math on this. Assume that you are actually paying a soldier during his training. Two years at 10sc p/ day, let’s just call it 8,000sc. Then add his equipment: spear, shield, chain mail. That is a pretty big investment. Assuming an officer has five years of experience, that investment is too much to risk. Now what keeps him alive best? The main combat enchantments in LQ are animated attack (increases your “to hit”), animated parry (decreases his “to hit”), and sharpness (decreases his armor protection, which effectively increases damage). Animated parry is easier and cheaper to cast than the others, and it therefore fairly dramatically reduces the enemy’s chance of scoring hits and thus lowers overall damage. My factory enchanters are not the greatest, but they can churn out a +20% parry shield for about 1,200sc. Risking 1,200 to protect ~18,000 - that’s a good bet. It is especially important if you know the history of the Latvich military and know that they got their keisters kicked at Rhum because the Rhoric snipers kept picking off their officers. Keeping those officers alive is a vital part of the new Latvich army.

So how much magic is there? There is as much magic as makes sense economically. For those cities that have enchantment factories, every officer will have some manner of magical item. Nearly every elven soldier has at least half a healing potion. Plantation owners make use of rain makers.

An extra point though: Golems can cost 12,000sc. Now a 12K golem is a fearsome fighting machine, but is it worth 25-30 mercenary soldiers (assuming it would last about a month in battle)? No. It just isn’t. So very few rulers have an army of golems hidden away. OK, a couple do, but these are the guys who have enchanters who are legitimately bored. The cost-benefit often shows that it is better/cheaper to just use more people.


  1. Luckily for GMs the whole economics of magic can be manipulated because it is an economy both in the shadowy underground and in the vaulted halls of the magi proper. If you have a city with no magic allowed, the underground market can be expensive; likewise competition in another city can be fierce...with less than desirable results. Thanks again for a great piece to think on. Cheers. NSD

  2. Just something that I was thinking about. I would love to have a nice, artful, real copy of LQGold. I find it so hard to figure out rules by reading on the net, or even with home printed stuff. This system is brilliant, but I struggle with keeping it useable - the percentages and such have me confused....but I would pay good money for a beautiful Hardcover version.
    I know that Kickstarter has been good to many "new school" projects; I would be happy to donate, especially for some good art....I know you have probably thought of this and maybe dismissed it as foolish, but it would be nice for those of us who follow LQ and Fletnern and Board Ent. I would love to have a Google+ group moderated by you for discussing Roleplaying, GMing, LQ, other systems, etc. It is clear from your writing that you are amoung the people in the world who think and know a lot about RPGs. Like Monte Cook, Ed Greenwood, etc. and they are always getting involved in stuff. Serious capital R roleplayers WILL pay a premium for access to you and for well-made LQGold Core in Print.

  3. RPG Now does offer a print on demand feature, but the tech support necessary from our side (prep of the full cover with bleed, etc) is something we had always trusted to our printer partners in the past - meaning, we don't know how.
    BUT - We do have copies of both Legend Quest and the Book of Wishes. LQ is "2nd edition" previous to Gold. BoW should be exactly the same as the online product.
    Contact us at for full details!

  4. As for "artful" - there is more art in the Gold (online) edition of the book than there was in either of the previous printings. Let me try to explain my position: My kids get magazines from huge entertainment companies. The magazines aimed at tweens seem to have about 15 words on every page. The rest is just huge pictures. I hate that! Look guys like Jeff Dee can write games like Villains and Vigilantes, AND illustrate them. I can't. I had a brilliant layout guy start doing the layout for the Gold edition, and he doubled the page count. In an online format, that doesn't sound so bad, but especially when you're talking about print, to me that's stealing from our customers. I have had good conversations with some of the best artists in the fantasy genre, and while most of them are fantastic people, we're a small press game company. Asking Larry to do a cover for us would make certain that we lost money on the book. My BoW artists were wonderfully supportive to me and worked on commission. They didn't get much, and I felt bad about that - so I'm not even asking starving artists to submit to us, because I don't know that I can help. Sorry to ramble.

    1. I hear you on the kids mags. I guess I put LQ in the same set as my Rules Cyclopedia, my first DnD boo that I owned back in the day. It is a one book wonder that is al one needs to play. I haven't changed my system much since then; but I am very interested in using LQ. I upgraded to Gold. I have most if not all BE products and love them. I suppose I could simply make it (with borders, colour, watermarks, etc.) myself, geared to my own style and campaign, just for my own use of course...or insert some pages of art in the print binder that might give me some ideas. Just that I am a visual person as well, and I find you products to be so verbally (literally?) perfect for sparking ideas, if I had both art and Info, it would be a one-two punch, like the Pathfinder Core books without all of the confusion about feats and skills and such (why even have feats???). I find the Core PFRPG book to be the best of the bunch since the Rules Cycopedia, I just wish I had a LQ in print with lots of "Tonal" art to inspire me.

      Sorry if I appeared to be critical. By "artful" I meant more graphics like borders and such, not knights killing dragons. I in no way meant to take away from the look of LQGold. Like I said, it is very reminiscent of the Rules Cyclop[edia for me.. LQ and BE is a fraction of the cost, with all of your products, with NEW info, not recycled or rebranded stuff like I often see. I guess I was just voicing a dream. Great work. I'd love to see a wider audience connect with it. NSD

  5. No worries - I didn't take it as critical, just pointing in a direction I either wasn't planning on going or perhaps may not be able to go in.
    All the LQ books (all!) were three hole punched. We sold them in binder sets at conventions. The point was that you had the core rules and you could easily add anything you wanted as simply as inserting a page into your binder.
    So you get it! The idea that you would take it and make it your own by adding anything you want. and you didn't need me to explain it.